Just came across this article on the US Congress hearings of the giant Tech companies Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. What called my attention was the approach from the executives (you know, corporate diplomats) in stating that they face competition and are not monopolies – which, let’s be honest, is not quite accurate.
I believe that the issue with governmental affairs professionals in private organizations is the short-sighted vision on matters of public interest. This is the core scope of their work and yet, governmental affairs specialists bring this fierce attitute of business strategy to the public debate – definitely not a win-win approach. This approach will only continue to get the exact conter-productive reaction they got from congressman David Cicilline, as reported by Wired:
“I don’t think there’s any question that we cannot expect them to regulate themselves. We’ve seen the total absence of any ability to regulate themselves, so I think it will absolutely require some action by congress.”
Would it be reasonable to say that the new data economy revolves around data as the raw material of its production systems? Does this mean that these tech companies are extracting data as a commodity?
They are arguing that they extract these commudities to serve their consumers. But, aren’t their consumers the people who they also extract the raw material from?
And what do the consumers/suppliers get in exchange? Not much except an overwhelming load of personalized advertising (is this a benefit, anyway?) and access to content creation and sharing platforms – which is the over-the-top (OTT) infrastructure of the production system.
Well, I believe that it basically comes down to the fact that the emerging production mode (knowledge production systems) does not close the economic feedback loop. In the industrial mode of production, in which raw material is in fact extracted from space territory, there is a feedback loop – concessions pay taxes and royalties to the States that have sovereignty over territory and wages to workers who provide labor to extract the material. However, in the emerging information age, the story is completely different. And my argument is that people – the data subjects from which raw material is extracted, hence data providers – are shut outside of the economic loop. This has something to do with the flawed assumption that all individuals performing economic agency (i.e. as both end consumers and data providers) are conscious homo economicus.
But anyway, this is a long academic argument which I will try to elaborate on further in my next article. Until then, I offer a couple of links to the respective US Congress hearings that made headlines this week.